Friday, February 17, 2017

My Story Begins With Her's

18" x 22" Watercolors
I haven't done a painting in two years.  So much was going on during those two years and, frankly,  I just wasn't inspired.  However, sometimes prayers are answered, the future looks very bright again, and the muse comes back! I had always wanted to do a portrait of my mom in her beautiful traditional Japanese wedding kimono.  I had done a previous portrait in colored pencils, but it wasn't very good as I was just getting back into art.
Last December, when Carrie Fischer and her mom Debbie Reynolds passed away, I was reflecting on my own relationship with my mother and how much it may explain my being a weirdo. Weird that I'm a contradiction - social introvert, homebody bookworm  and adventure seeker, serene exterior and nervous wreck interior.  My relationship with my mother was not at all like Carrie's, in fact, to say the least - it was quite the opposite and it has always haunted me.  I pretty much grew up raising and teaching things to myself and helping my siblings as my mother was just not equipped in the way of emotional needs of her children and my father was constantly on tour while he was in the air force.  By the time her 3rd and 4th baby came, she spiraled deep into depression for way too many reasons . At a very young age, I learned how to take her emotional temperature and if it was bad, I did my best to help her in my child capacity.  I learned how to cook and clean by the time I was in kindergarten.  I also quickly learned how to read so I could help translate things to her as she was still learning English and the American culture. But, I also acted out a lot, doing things I never understood why but I felt like I had to live life to the fullest and could be very impulsive. By the time I was in the 3rd grade, she found  religion - Buddhism (Nichiren Shoshu) and connection with other Japanese American women whom she clung to for the rest of her life.  They became the family she always longed for and her life had purpose and direction.  She finally became happy with her life and the direction it took.   However, for me and my siblings, she and her country has always been a large question mark.  But this is what I do know ~
Ohba Family circa late 1920s, early 1930s
Back Left to Right: Name unknown - eldest sister, Asano, Zenkai, name unknown - eldest brother
Front Left to Right: Name unknown - 2nd oldest sister, Korean maid sitting and  holding next to youngest sister Aiko, and sister Fumiko. My mom is not yet born.
My mom, Kazuko, was born in Japan on March 4, 1932 into the very well-to-do Ohba family (old Samurai heritage), her dad Zenkai and her mom, Asano.  Zenkai was a very high ranking officer in the Japanese military during WWII (yes, the wrong side).  Before my mom was born, Zenkai and Asano had 5 children, a boy and 4 girls with my mom becoming their 6th and last child.  However, Asano died a few days after giving birth to my mother.  And so, my mom was motherless with a Korean maid (yikes!) looking after her and her siblings. Knowing what I do, I believe my mother never bonded with her dad and only had a few days as a newborn with her mother.  After Asano died, Zenkai found a new wife and they had a daughter, Hirako (not positive that is her name but we'll call her Hirako here).  By then, the eldest son and a daughter had passed away, but I don't know the story.  The new wife did not want to be encumbered with the two youngest children (Aiko and my mom), and so Zenkai had them adopted out to two of his bodyguards and their respective families.  Some people have told me that is what was customary at the time.  I never knew the name of the man who adopted my mom, except that his last name is Shimizu and that was the name my mother went by. She inherited a step-brother who was older than her by a few years, a step-mother who both doted & spoiled her, but a step-father who was cruel to her. I only go by the few stories my mom happened to mention.  Time went on, and my mom wanting to learn English, found a job at an air force base in Japan as a housekeeper while she went to English school.  She was invited to a party and there she met my dad and they fell in love, married and had me.  By then, she had no memory of her previous family and never knew that the family had been wealthy.  Before my parents married and went to live permanently with me in tow,  a Japanese woman came to visit my mom.  My mom said the woman looked very much like her and it turned out to be her oldest natural sister (name unknown but she is in the dark fur coat to the left of the maid) who had explained about her natural family and about the other adopted sister (Aiko).  While living in her new country, she learned of the death of the sister who had told her about her past.  I believe she is pictured in my parents wedding wearing a white shirt.  In the early 60s, my mom returned to Japan to see/meet her two remaining sisters (Fumiko and Aiko)  and, also the half-sister Hirako.  Every few years, these sisters would meet up and talk of Ohba family past. What became of Zenkai, well it turns out that not too long after he adopted out his two youngest daughters, there was a parade with the military and horses.  One of the horses was acting up and the handler couldn't control it.  So, my grandfather went to take control.  However, the horse threw him and he broke his neck and died. I never found out about the older siblings and how they passed away.  And a lot of the history comes from both Fumiko and Hirako of what they remember.  My mom never said very much about all of this to us, but what she did, I hung on every word.
Kazuko and Ed in love and on a date.


I don't know all the people  here, but standing Left to right: two unknown people, my Uncle Pete, and my mom's stepbrother.
Seated from left to right, unknown man, my Aunt Yoshiko who is married to my Uncle Pete, unknown woman, and my dad, mom, her natural sister in the white shire, and her step-mother. The Pettit brothers were not really supposed to be stationed together and would never be stationed together after Johnson AFB.

This was probably one the last times the sisters met in Japan. Standing left to right is Hirako (half-sister) and Aiko (the baby in the lap of the Korean maid in the Ohba Family photo above)
Seated left to right is my mom, Kazuko, and Fumiko (little girl in the white fur coat on the right)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Lotus Dance

In the philosophy of Buddhism, the lotus represents you and your mind of thoughts and emotions while living on this earth plane.  The lotus rises from murky muddiness and grows to the surface of the water where there is light.  There are many different meanings as to the openness as well as the color of the lotus flower, but basically the meaning of an open lotus flower is the attainment of enlightenment.   So many of us are born in utter confusion and many of us must deal with so much personal hurt while growing towards being a better person.  We all have that "monkey mind" and let our thoughts get the best of our emotions and health.  
Although I am not Buddhist, I appreciate the philosophy very much and view the symbol of the lotus flower as a growing and often struggling human being. My painting "Lotus Dance" represents that very growing phase between birth in the mud to enlightenment of the blossoming lotus flower. We all skirt and skate through life, bending this way and that to adjust to our own personal healthy growth.  We often have had to deal with tremendous personal tragedies and a life time of personal hurt and regret throughout our lives.  However, with much hope of still attaining light and happiness in our short lives, we conquer our emotions, our self-criticizing thoughts, and we make peace with the things that have hurt us.  True enlightenment is when we let it all go and then our lives culminate in the opening of a lotus blossom.   
"Lotus Dance" did not make the cut in the CPSA International Show this year.  I need to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out why.  Is it me and my point of view, the use of the medium of colored pencils, am I not clever enough when I title my painting or what.....?  So, here I am doing a sort of Lotus Dance with my developing art growth.  I'll try to enter it again for the next CPSA International Show when there is a different juror. Meanwhile, it did get accepted into the San Diego Museum of Art Artist Guild Centennial Exhibition.  It'll be in Gallery 21 at Spanish Village late May and through the middle of June.  Balboa Park was created for the World's Fair and it's now 100 years old and is an inspiration for a lot of my art work including "Lotus Dance". 

"Lotus Dance" ( 22.75" x 30.37") Colored Pencil on 300 lb Hot Press Arches 

I've also had fun with masterpiece studies with the small scale of an ATC card for a PAT swap on IATC.  I always enjoy studying and interpreting the master artists and their paintings.  I'm drawn to color play with high contrasts and complimentary colors and chose these paintings to do.
Top Row: Interpretations of J.W. Turner, David Galchutt, Alice Neel, Audrey Kawasaki
Bottom Row: Interpretations of Tamara de Lempicka, Degas, E.R. Kirchner, Umberto Boccioni
All done on 3.5 x 2.5 inch ATC cards in acrylic on watercolor paper with the exception of the Degas which is done with colored pencils on cardboard. 

I am currently finishing up on a fun thing we do on IATCs which is Secret Solstice.  It's much like Secret Santa, but it's a spring/summer time of having secret partners to do art by their interests and likes.  I accidentally posted a piece thinking I could show the painting stages of one of the gifts on FB.  Sometimes, you get clumsy and forget who is your friend... but, hopefully, my recipient doesn't know it's for her and besides, she hasn't seen the final painting.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Twitterpating Spring

Where the double hockey sticks have I been?  I've certainly been making most of the  first part of the year about FUN!  However, I have not neglected my duty to always make art because that's really the very most wonderful thing to do!

For one of my BFFs, who is also an artist, we came up with animals to do for each other each year in lieu of birthday, Christmas and other celebrations and call the day "Festivus"after an episode in the Jerry Seinfeld show.  This day is celebrated whenever we are ready - usually in spring. Mainly, we find each other little gifts on the theme and we also do our own art of the animal. 2014 was the Year of the Horse (my Chinese birth symbol) and I marked a milestone birthday (60), plus it was my turn to pick, so I felt the horse was apropo for the theme.

I love horses, but I've actually only ridden on one once when I turned 50 and my husband took me to Cancun.  I rode the horse "Sailor" out into the ocean at sunset - magical!  Even though I've not had much experience dealing and relating to horse (visiting farms, racetracks, westerns and nature shows) I've always loved this beautiful creature and everything it represents.  I decided I would make my friend an art Horse book like I once did with Hopi Spirits for another artist for the Secret Santa exchange. The pages are approximately 9" x 12" and are bounded by Japanese book binding and adorned with beads and feathers. Before binding the book, I sewed down each horse page except the cover and last page in different colored threads.  Then after binding the book, I then cut the pages open following the colored threads.  I had to loosen the book a little by placing weights on the pages so it'll be easier to open when I present it.  

Cover Page: Horses from the caves of Lascaux (Charcoal on watercolor tinted paper)

Spirit Horse - watercolor with use of Golden medium done using some of the Imago Intaglio methods. 

Dark Horse - Prisma colored pencils on blue watercolor tinted paper

Ocean horse - watercolor and gouache

Winter Horse - Watercolor with a bit of metallic watercolor splash

Spring Meadow Horse - a fauvish horse and landscape in watercolor

Last page - Horse Head Nebula in watercolors with use of metallic watercolors
 It came out pretty nice and I hope my friend likes it.  I certainly enjoyed doing it and may end up doing a series of art books.  Now it's time for me to have a little fun with no pressure except meeting the deadline - ATCS.  These are for the Favorite Artist Pat in which you do the other artists, with whom you'll be trading cards, favorite artists.  Sketching always takes the longest time but now they're ready to be painted. The brown one is cardboard and will be done in colored pencils.  By the IATC gallery, it looks like I'll be receiving some fantastic interpretations of Gustave Klimt and Egon Schiele.  If I hurry with these, maybe I can get some geisha cards done next!
Clockwise from Left: Tamara de Lempicka, David Galchutt, Umberto Boccioni, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Audrey Kawasaki, Edgar Degas, Alice Neel

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Art of the Year

2014 has been a very fun and interesting Year of the Horse.  Although there have been some downs, I am truly blessed and am happy. Looking back at my fairly long journey here on earth, I've been reflecting on what was not apparent back when I was much younger - those things that just happen for no apparent reason but by some odd twist of fate there it is and it affects you deeply for the rest of your life.  At the time, you're completely bewildered, but then you get a glimpse of why it may have happened.  With that in mind, I thought I would explore some of these life experiences with handmade art journals as well as my own interpretations of certain subject matter.  2015 will not only be a year of artistic discipline, but of venturing out and exploring new themes and ideas.

I sincerely need to find more balance in time management with the making of art and what kind of art to make (as well as jog and walk my dog and yoga and maintain a social life!).  I didn't paint on a large scale as much as I had planned this year, instead I had a record year in making mail art to trade. Because I am such an introvert, I thought I would get out of my safe box and try to get to know the other artists that I've been trading with even better through their art as well as meeting some of them in person.  I've made and traded something like 275 art cards, art dolls, hearts, mixed media art this year.   It was a lot of fun, but I do need to continue to push myself in paintings using all mediums and to further develop myself as an artist. I have several goals for the year and one is to be juried and accepted into several big International shows for 2015.

That said, it was a blast to make different things for both of my Secret Santas on IATCs. The first was a mini gift was for an artist who is a genius at turning flea market items into fun objects of art and for crocheting adorable cute monsters. She and her partner also have the most wonderful contests of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary at Wonderstrange .  Because she is into Henry VIII and his assorted queens, I thought she would like some nesting dolls.  I made a mistake and ordered the 5 doll set instead of the 7 doll set, but I made it up by making the last two wives with ATC cards.
Henry VIII with Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves Nesting Dolls

Catherine Howard

Catherine Parr
 My next Secret Santa is an artist I've not had too much interaction with in the past, but it was fun getting to know her.  I love her very expressionistic way of painting subjects and the Secret Santa portrait she painted of her own partner's dog is amazing.  I hope she gets me next year, I would love another portrait of my sweet dog, Roxy! Apparently, she also works as someone who delivers knives to various companies and loves themes with women and knives, skulls, and Day of the Dead!  Here are some of the things I conjured up for her.
Day of the Dead wall plaque painted with acrylics in her favorite colors and embellished with cut tin cans

Skull hand with articulated finger blades

"Kill Bill's" Beatrix with O'ren Ishi articulated dolls ready to sword fight. Wish you could see the glittery swirls in O'ren's kimono.

I also finished a few swaps - "Snow Queens & Goddesses", "Whimsical Robots", and Portraits of Men.
Snow Queens & Goddess' are always fun to do!  Some of them are cold and calculating and the others are more of the sheltering type for the winter animals.  One is a little sad because she really hates fox hunts.  For the Whimsical Robots, I love humanizing them and letting them be a bit naughty.  A couple of them like to try on human personas and the other two like to indulge big time! 
Snowflake Crowned Snow Queen, Snow Goddess with Snowy Owl, Snow Goddess with Red Fox, Yuki-onna - Japanese Snow Goddess

Candy-Bot, Rockabilly-Bot, Sommelier-Bot, Cowboy-Bot

And finally, for the "Portraits of Men", I chose to do some of my favorite rock icons.  Musicians have the most expressive faces that I particularly enjoy doing.  I always love to do portraits and in doing so, being a shy person, I always feel like I can get to know and understand a person better.  Here they are in simple graphite.

Thom Yorke

Kurt Cobain

Keith Richards

Lenny Kravitz
I would love to show the gifts I received, but some artists are very sensitive about publishing their art online, so all I can say is that I received the most wonderful gifts! One of my favorite things is to make and receive art from other artists and I've had a bumper year.

So as I write this, I have that giant colored pencil piece of the koi in an underwater lily pad garden scene to finish and I have two side-show circus freaks drawn out. I haven't committed myself to the swap, but rather wanted to find the time to complete the cards first and then commit.  So far, I have a sexy bearded lady and a fire breather.  I'd like to have a twin double-headed persons who share the same body but have dual natures (think Tea Party and very, very Liberal).  I'm still thinking about the last freak and may have to refer to American Horror Story for inspiration.  

I hope the coming year brings many wonderful things your way and may all your dreams come true!  

Blessings and Happy Creating!
Rhonda




   

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November - Turning the Big 60!

With the nice cooler weather, it's been truly nice to make some different fun art.  On the show front, I have a painting that is currently in a SDMA Artist Guild show entitled "Illuminations".  It didn't win anything, but always an honor and pleasure to be juried in. My painting, "Reflections", is catty corner of the winning piece which is a remarkable black and white oil painting of people in the pool looking up at buildings.  The perspective comes from someone who is in the pool with the other swimmers. It was one of my favorites and I'm happy it won. For San Diegans, there is still time to see the show until next Tuesday at the Poway Center of Performing Arts: "Illuminations"

Last month, I participated in a Halloween-A-Thon on IATCs and made cards to trade to other artists based on horror movies. I bought a Super Deluxe Heavy weight drawing paper sketch book thinking I could use a variety of mediums on it.  So I quickly sketched out the movie theme horror scenes using "Clockwork Orange", "Psycho" "Frankenstein" and "Carrie". My Jack Nicholson didn't come out as well as expected so he was trashed.

Although it was great to just work on one piece of smooth paper drawing it all out, the watercolor didn't quite absorb the way I would like but it was good to test it out.  Here's how the cards turned out along with a couple more using copics and gel pens.


Candy Monster

Green Witch with Cat
 I also had a chance to make these Day of the Dead wall plaques. I saw something similar in Old Town while perusing a cool store filled with DOTD items and wanted to try my hand making them.  I made a skull template and used it as a stencil on wood and cut them out.  I used a stencil for the flower portion of the  dark blue one because it's for a special person and the others have freehand drawing. They were then painted in acrylics and varnished.  The fun part was cutting up all these soda/drink cans that everyone saved for me to use as eyes and lip embellishments.  I used the tab part of the can as a hanger in the back.  These will all make nice DOTD gifties!
Day of the Dead Wall Plaques

Last year, I signed up for the "Oddball Art Ornament" swap.  A lot of the ornaments are creepy cool, sort of in the spirit of "Nightmare Before Christmas".  I received some deliciously creepy ornaments, and now I need more.  I made Black Widow spider's with red sparkle hour glass backs on a frosted snowflake web.  I molded a roped up Rudolph, Snowman and something else I can't remember but they were dead and trapped by the spider.  Crystal beading was added to the ends of the spider web for the full snowflake effect.  This year, I made "Festive Shrunken Heads".  The faces were shaped cone-like with paper clay.  I drilled holes for the wire laces at the eyes and mouth, and also for piercings and then painted them candy-ish with acrylics.  Then the wire was sewn over eyes, mouths and piercing. The hair is made of a variety of ribbons, yarns and were attached securely both inside the head and outside.  The final touch was sewing some jingle balls onto the ribbons.

 




In the meantime, I'm busy swishing paint, cutting and gluing arty presents for my Secret Santas which has to remain a secret for now.  

This Sunday, I'll be celebrating my 60th birthday....yikes!   There's no denying that I'm getting old, but I am so very thankful for this time in my life to be able to do my life's passion, ART.  I am also so lucky to be surrounded and loved by wonderful family and friends and I get to live in beautiful San Diego, CA.  It's been a wonderful and remarkable year of arting with artists in Arizona for Artzona, going to Cabos San Juan and Lucas with close girlfriends for water, sunshine and wine, of meeting east coast artists in Rochester, NY, and seeing my sister and her family with my brother in Boston.  It's been a wonderful year and I thank everyone whose made it so special for me this year!  

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and Blessings!     

Friday, October 3, 2014

Happy Friday!


Hoping to see a lot of San Diego friends and artists tonight at Liberty Station: 2825 Dewey Rd.San Diego Watercolor Society

I went to the Preview Reception Awards Ceremony which was lovely and I met a lot of wonderful watercolor artists and their families.  The next morning, they has a breakfast for us and I learned so much about each painting from concept to the technical painting aspects.  I just absorbed everything and can't wait to try my hand with some of this new knowledge.  I have a fear of public speaking, but I did get up and speak about my painting which has a double story and how it almost had the name of "The Heavier Side Layer" but I personalized it with "Half Past Bloom".  I think everyone appreciated the painting techniques of how I took a photo of the painting when it was almost done and played with an art app on the iPad making experimental teal drips to see how it looked before actually committing to drip in a very controlled way.  I learned from the great watercolor artist, Nicholas Simmons, that watercolor accidents are both beautiful and wonderful and so I deliberately use water blooms, drips, splashes all in a very controlled manner as part of my painting and design process.  

The painting that won "Best in Show" is truly beautiful live.  There is a faint image of a rat and with tic tac toe game pieces.  The colors are dark and broody with beautiful teal to balance it all out and it's called "A Dangerous Game".  Although the artist was there for the Preview Reception, I didn't have a chance to speak to him about his painting but I sure would like to know more about it.  My favorite painting in the show is "Zumba Baby" by Joan Merrick.  She batiks her own papers and works in both watercolors, liquid acrylics and collages her papers onto her paintings. She said she takes a zumba class and here was this wonderful woman with her hair up in a ponytail with corkscrew curls and she has a baby strapped to her who slept throughout the whole zumba session.  Joan asked to take her picture and this woman graciously agreed.  I hope she finds out about this painting to see her gorgeous self and strapped baby! I would just love to take a workshop with this artist.  I don't want to infringe on any of the artists copyright by publishing their paintings on this blog, but if you'd like to take a peek at the paintings I spoke about or see the award winners, just click onto the SDWS link above.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September Art Progress

"Faded Manuscript within Reality" by artist Arup Lodh, SDWS International Director's Postcard Award

I'm so excited to say that I've been juried into the 34th International Exhibition at the San Diego Watercolor Society.  This is the second time I've been accepted and juried in and I only need one more to go before I earn letters. The juror, Skip Lawrence, was very touched by my entry and  I also won a sweet award!  The Pre-Awards Show is this coming Saturday evening and is a fun event except that I dread going on stage to accept the award - it's my biggest fear - but at least I don't think I'll have to say anything, thank goodness. There's going to be a breakfast for all the accepted artists as well and that is such an honor and a privilege! The opening reception is on October 3rd from 5 to 8 pm at Liberty Station. It's also the first Friday and Liberty Station has all its artist galleries open as well as the Vision Arts Quilts opening reception in the same building.  This is my entry for this year's show and there's more on the story in previous post.  Anyone reading this and happens to be in town, you are more than welcome to come by and say hi!   The show is running for all of October. 
"Half Past Bloom" 22.50 x 25.50 " Watercolor on 300lb Hot Press Arches
   
My current work-in-progress is this large colored pencil piece of an underwater lily garden scene with a single koi. I love its almost abstract quality and I think I've composed this pretty well. I'm using my red mylar to check all my values while I'm in the process because there are so many greens and yellows.  It is done on 300lb Hot Press Arches and the base is now filled with waxed based Prismacolors.  The white areas have been masked with the white pencil to be scraped off with a blade and will be completed last.  This drawing/painting is in its ugly duckling stage.  The next step is to fire up the Icarus board and go over the wax base with Caran D'Ache and perhaps some Derwent to burnish and add more depth of color and details. Although it's a slow piece, I've broken the piece down by quartering it and working on a quarter before moving on to the next.  The fish I'll save for the last part.  This will be my project for the coming week and I hope to have it mostly completed by then so I can remove the masked areas.  I have some high hopes for it for the Colored Pencil Society's 2015 International Show.  I so want to go to Hot 'Lanta for the convention and also visit with my husband's family in Georgia.  
22.75 x 31 3/8 Colored Pencils on 300lb Hot press Arches on the easel